An Apple a Day…

It was so cold and bitter today on my walk, with the low cloud cover that looked like it really wanted to deliver some snow. We got lucky, however, and merely had cold, windy weather, hovering at 40 degrees. Not much fun for a Sunday on November 9.

Instead of doing all of my many herbal projects awaiting me, we went to the Apple orchard and bought amazing, rich, juicy Michigan Apples: Honeycrisps, Red Delicious, and Cortlands. The Cortlands are so old-fashioned. They remind me a lot of the old Snow Apple, which was also a round little apple with a deep red bloom and veins of red throughout the snowy-white flesh.  The Cortland is sweet and juicy but a little too soft for my taste. It will, however, bake up nicely (and I’ll eat it in preference to the Red Delicious).

Today I started the Digestion Series, which is just amazing.  I’m learning so much about how to help myself, and eventually, to help my clients.  the information about H. pylori was very interesting given my own history with gastric ulcer. Increasingly, I am turning away from the typical American Diet of overprocessed, fatty, GMO food and increasingly turning to a lifestyle free of wheat, sugar, and dairy.  ‘But what does that leave!?’

Oddly, I am eating better for being aware.  A lot of raw vegetables, properly prepared dried legumes, some meat (usually chicken or salmon), fruit, some grains such as Rice. What am I not eating? I am largely not eating sugar or wheat-based products. Of course, things slip in. A cinnamon-sugar doughnut at the orchard, fresh from the fryer. Yes, I know I’ll pay for it, but, AUTUMN! Sometimes you have to do the things that remind you of simpler times.

Tonight I finished my batch of bone broth I was cooking for the past two days. Tuppence was ecstatic about the ‘non-bone’ leftovers, that I chopped super fine and added a little magic powder to. He’ll get a couple of meals out of that, and I’ll have an awesome bone broth meal!


Saturday Starting Out

42 and windy – cold, and gray. Typical November weather in Michigan, in other words.

I love looking at the bones of the land at this season. You can see where the water sources run and the full extent of the trees or where the wetlands begin. Our wetlands are completely sere and shades of tan and gold. Most of the wild grasses have been blown over by the grass, disguising the deer trails.

The bittersweet nightshade’s (Solanum dulcamara) berries are really lush and very visible in this landscape, glowing red and looking so lush and tasty. This Eurasia native was introduced to the US and quickly became a weed, so that it is quite common to see along roadways and paths.  The characteristic dark purple bloom and small oval, translucent red fruit are characteristic of this solanaceous plant and differentiate them from our native annual nightshade, that has white flowers and blue-black fruit.  All parts of the plant are moderately to extremely toxic, and that leads me to an interesting ethnobotany supposition.

When tomatoes (also a solanaceous species) were first brought to Europe, they were regarded as an ornamental plant, and people didn’t dare to eat them. The tomato species likely to have been imported to Europe would have been wild, un-improved species with small berry-like fruit and typical star-shaped yellow or white flowers, very similar to the flowers and fruit of the bittersweet and deadly nightshades, which were known toxins.  It makes sense that people in the Old World would think that the edible tomato would have toxic fruit like the nightshades: same family, similar flowers, similar fruit. I don’t recall ever reading anything about why tomatoes weren’t immediately clasped to the cooks’ bosoms and hailed as wonderful new addition to their repertory, but this certainly makes sense to me that they look too much alike.

Nightshades are used for herbal medicines, because they contain many active pharmaceuticals. But avoid eating this plant as it contains solanine, the same toxin found in green potatoes and other members of the nightshade family, as well as a glycoside called dulcamarine.

Hectic Friday, Partially Sunny

It started out very nice, sunny and bright, but the clouds rolled in by noon. Thankfully, by the time I headed out for my 4 miles, the sun was peeking through here and there. I got so completely wet Thursday that I was grateful for the sun. It was a quite brisk 44 degrees with a northerly wind, which blew down a few more leaves here and there. Dad’s carefully raked lawn was covered with Norway Maple leaves, so they are (finally!) coming down.

I have a bunch of cough syrups and immune support recipes to make this weekend: horehound syrup, elderberry syrup and drops, and herbal cough drops with slippery elm – and some lip balm for my sister. It’s exciting that my family members now ask me for herbal remedies (since I haven’t poisoned anyone yet and I have actually helped them with the ailments they’re asking for help with).  I will also need to decant the vanilla bitters and add the next set of ingredients to the cherry bitters. then all done with making bitters for this year. Maybe.

The Michigan Autumn textile collection is coming along. I have photographed all my references and dropped out the backgrounds. Now to figure out what sort of manipulation I want to do with the references and put the collection together. I think it will be very pretty when its all done.

We need more apples. I’m going through those things like water. Apples are so good for you and the Michigan apples just taste so great it’s hard to stop.

November cold drear and rainy

A cold, rainy November day – my heavy winter coat actually got soaked through which doesn’t hold out great hope for th ewinter, does it. 40 degrees and blustery.

I scared up a doe in the woods because absolutely no one was out. I’m sure she thought she had a nice warm nest all made up, because she sure didn’t run far.

I actually like the woods in the rainy weather. It’s quiet and uncrowded, and the tree bark becomes dark and mysterious.  The Norway Maples are clinging gamely to their leaves, and our Apples are finally dropping their leaves. I pulled annuals yesterday – oddly they had held up remarkably well to our hard frosts. We just haven’t really had a deep killing freeze yet, so all of the ‘weed species’ are still going crazy.

Sunny & Sixty…A Glorious November 5th Autumn

Yet another glorious autumn day in which to ‘forest bathe’, as the Japanese say. I read an interesting report that said the Japanese highly regard the concept of ‘forest bathing’, which is the immersion of self into a woodland full of trees for 15-20 minutes of longer. The report said, basically, that this immersion of self into the woodland spaces makes you feel better, because we are wired to like trees.  Which, really, think about it:

1 acre of trees makes enough oxygen for 18 people.  That alone is reason enough to want to spend time with trees and maybe even to HUG them.

I certainly feel better when I walk through the woodland pathway here. Dad always suggests I walk down to Saginaw (Highway) and I always decline. Why do I want to walk next to cars belching out their exhaust, heavy metals and air filth? As opposed to walking amongst my friends, the trees, forbes and yes even weeds, and filling my lungs with copious deep breaths of heavily oxygenated air?

My kyphi incense is coming along. I turned it today and found it is getting much harder. Excellent. I made small, pea-sized balls so I hope these will dry fairly quickly.  I made sure to work my way through my infusing oils and macerating bitters and tinctures. I need to decant some more tomorrow and bottle up a few to give to friends.

I’m taking a really amazing class right now, through Courseera. The course, ‘What Plants Know’, really has made me think about the biochemical way that plants engage with their surroundings. They have 13 or more chromophores that help them sense and engage with their environment. Humans, in contrast…have five. Our senses are so limited compared to other organisms in our environment. It’s a good thing we have thumbs or really, we’d be so lost.

Tomorrow, in addition to the bitters decanting, I will make some lip balm for my sister, and sort out some herbal remedies for my friends in need.

All the Leaves Are Brown and the Sky is Gray

And I went for a walk, on a November day…with my apologies to the Mamas and the Papas, but it was entirely appropriate today.  Unlike the song, though, I am well content with our Michigan November weather and wouldn’t trade it for California’s drought.

Cold, gray, rainy, but despite this there were a lot of dog walkers out taking their fur people for what looked to be a thoroughly exciting day snuffling in the wet leaves. The wild life weren’t scarce, either, as I startled a couple of does out of their beds. They didn’t move far, I assume they were going back to their warm (and presumably) dry nests.  Our high was in the mid fifties, and it looks like more of the same throughout the week.

I came back and helped uproot the last of the annuals and pitched them out onto the leaves for grinding and eventual composting or mulching.  The ashes and maples are almost all completely denuded now; the Norways are clinging to their leaves, much to the bitter disgust of the neighborhood at large, who want to be done with their leaves by now. I have some Tulip bulbs to plant, and I have my Calla seed pods to figure out, They finally separated from the parent stems and now the pods themselves are slightly squishy. This is what I read they are supposed to do. My next steps are to plant these babies and hope they’ll grow for me.  The Red Raspberries need to be pruned back as the floricanes are done and the primocanes need to get pruned to become floricanes.

Today I added the woods and resins to my macerating Juniper berries and Sultanas for Kyphi incense. They smelled amazing as I mashed everything together. Interestingly, things really didn’t come together till I drizzled in the teeny bit of honey the recipe called for, at which point the entire recipe just set and achieved a great consistency to roll into tiny incense balls. They are down finishing and drying out and will be done in a 3-4 weeks.

I took my reading for my Master Gardener class to the voting polls but was surprised to get processed through very quickly. I was in and out in under 10 minutes, which included time for the harried young father ahead of me to figure out where to drop his privacy sleeve.  In any event, schlepping along my 80 pages of reading made not much sense in the grand scheme of things. Then I bopped over to the local mega grocery store and scored a gorgeous Phalaenopsis for mom’s birthday (of course, I bought it for HER but we know who will be caring for it…) and snagged some Kalamata olives and wheat germ for some herbal projects I want to tackle.

My November homework still has some 31 questions to answer but thankfully only a couple more herbal experiments. They take the most time.



Almost Glorious…Nov 3

It started off a perfect Autumn day, in the upper 50s, with pure sun and that rich blue sky you see in November, but by later afternoon the sky was beginning to slowly cloud over, with that matte pearl grey cloud cover you get in Michigan. No matter, it was still a fine day for garden work and my walk wasn’t impeded in the slightest.

The sumach are starting to drop their central leaf stems (rachis) and are starting to look more like buck horns in velvet, with big gaudy velvety wine colored berries on the ends.  The rest of the wetland is largely sere and brown, with occasional small herbs and forbes around the outside that have escaped the frosts.  They harvested the soybean fields near us today, as ever a lot of dust and debris in the air but fun to watch the big tractors do their business.

The woods are layered with a deep carpet of fallen leaves now, in shades from pale browns and tans to cream and gold. It makes for a delectable sight under the late Autumn sun. The squirrels make a hellacious ruckus as they scamper around through the leaves.  Not surprisingly, not as many people out on the paths now, what with cooler weather settling in.

I’ve been learning about herbs and the reproductive system this month, and sharpening up my human anatomy. This is one time I wish I had human, and not plant, physiology.

The Michigan Autumn textile collection is coming right along.  I hope I’ll be able to send it out for sampling in two weeks or so. It would be a nice cap to a pretty Autumn season.